Human Aggression: What's Animal Research Got to Do With It?
Neal G. Simon and Emil F. Coccaro
Simon, a three-time HFG grantee, is a professor and chair in the Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University. Coccaro, a two-time HFG grantee, is director of the Neuroscience Research Unit at the Hahnemann School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA.
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The description of interactions among various brain signals represents only an initial step. One workshop goal was to consider new bridging approaches for research. Molecular biology may provide the key. The investigators who participated in the HFG workshop are among those who have helped advance the field through methodologies that span sophisticated neuroanatomical, pharmacological, biochemical, and other cytological methods. Yet this body of work is limited in its implications because it is correlational. In fact, it will be essential to explore the molecular bases for these interactions, raising the need for broadened training if we are to see truly substantive progress. These considerations, discussed in the workshop setting, pointed to the need for the development of multi-disciplinary groups to assess the neurobiology of aggression. This was recognized as an important feature of contemporary science and an approach the Guggenheim Foundation was in a unique position to foster.


There is a significant opportunity for investigators seeking to elucidate the neurobiology of animal and human aggression, one that requires integration and effective communication. Building bridges between basic and clinical scientists is a powerful means for advancing potential treatment strategies. Psychopharmacological and molecular biological tools now allow us to define cellular machinery and, in the near future, imaging technologies may well allow us to see cellular events in real time. The key issue is not one of scientific talent or resources, it is overcoming the parallelism that has accompanied the demands of highly specialized contemporary science. It is incumbent on investigators working on neural and chemical mechanisms underlying aggression to promote cross-fertilization of ideas with clinical scientists. Regardless of orientation, investigators stand to benefit enormously from these exchanges, with emerging concepts improving opportunities for the development of effective intervention strategies.

This article is based on a H. F. Guggenheim workshop meeting, "Insight through Understanding: Bridging Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Approaches to Aggression," held in Toledo, Spain, in January, 1996. The authors were the conference organizers.


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